“Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in return.”
– Alphonse Elric (narration), Fullmetal Alchemist
This may be alchemy’s first law of equivalent exchange, but it is a truth which touches so much more. They discuss it at length in the FMA franchise, yet still touch on it so very lightly.
It is a truth of sacrifice: in order to gain, you must give.
In order to gain food, clothing, and shelter, you must work for it, either in raising or finding it yourself, or in order to earn the currency needed to trade for it.
In order to gain advanced technology, you must pour in countless hours of work, research, manufacture, testing, and use.
In order to gain freedom and safety, you must speak up, fight, hold your ground against injustice, risking and sometimes losing even life itself.
In order to have a healthy, happy family, you must prioritize them over yourself.
And so it goes.
And yet, there is a surprising number of people who do not grasp this. I have seen people who wanted credit for work without putting in the work. I have also seen people who wanted to have friends without actually being a friend in return. And, of course, I have seen people who wanted to boost their social status with money or women or what have you, without actually earning any of it.
From these people, I learned that one often has to give exactly what you are wanting to gain. Work for work, loyalty for loyalty, cash for cash, honor for honor.
I once learned that it is far easier to have your family keep in touch with you if you make the effort to keep in touch with them as well. 🙂
There is a flip side, though. Sacrifice may be needed to achieve success, but success does not necessarily follow every sacrifice.
Sometimes, indeed, it is quite often, people put in all the work, the hours, the study, the labor, the paperwork, whatever… and they still meet with failure. Countless people have raged about what they’ve given up, what they’ve lost, what they’ve paid in pursuit of this endeavor they’re in, and they have nothing to show for it. No, even worse, they have less than they had before. There are few things more frustrating than to have worked so hard and failed anyway.
Especially when it seems like things are working out so easily for someone else who it seems has had everything handed to them. You know the type, the spoiled, entitled brats who grow up doing no work whatsoever, just coasting through life on mommy and daddy’s fortunes. What did they ever do to earn what they have, huh?
The truth of sacrifice is always true, but it is not always immediate.
The man who earns nothing will, if he continues, one day find himself with nothing. He could be born the richest baby in the world, but if all he does is spend, and never earn, then, sooner or later, even the vastest fortune in history will run dry. And what will that man have to show for it in the meantime? Does have any true friends? Does anyone actually respect him? Will anyone help him when he crashes and burns?
Only if he meets someone kind enough to give without thought of gaining.